May 10th, 2013


"The same chemical that makes fertilizer so useful also makes it really cheap bomb fuel. Researchers at Sandia labs in Albuquerque wondered if they could render the explosive properties of fertilizer inert while still keeping the beneficial properties intact, and this week announced success in a test batch. Even better, they're sharing the innovation for free.

The problem with improvised explosives is that they're cheap, made from otherwise-harmless everyday materials, and the directions to make them aren't too hard to find. This is true of pressure cooker bombs, a terror weapon so ubiquitous that its been used by everyone from anarchists to religious radicals on at least three continents, and it's especially true of fertilizer bombs.

Ammonium nitrate is the culprit. The first recipe for ammonium nitrate is over 350 years old, and despite centuries of research into other fertilizers, ammonium nitrate remains one of the cheapest and best. As an added benefit for farmers, ammonium nitrate "improves both the quantity and quality of protein-containing crops," which is a tremendous benefit to humanity.

Except for that part where it explodes. Normally, of course, ammonium nitrate doesn't blow up; if that was a daily occurrence, the recipe would have been abandoned 349 years ago. Ammonium nitrate requires the addition of another reagent to go off. In modern fertilizer bombs, readily available fuel completes the process, turning the normally-stable fertilizer into an extremely volatile explosive."

Read more here

May 10th, 2013

From The Columbus Dispatch

"Scotts Miracle-Gro has removed phosphorus from its popular Turf Builder line of lawn fertilizer to help reduce the type of harmful algae blooms that have plagued waterways such as Grand Lake St. Marys and Lake Erie.

The Marysville maker of lawn-and-garden products sees the move as a milestone for its industry, which it says is partly responsible for the phosphorus runoff that feeds one of the nation’s most costly and challenging environmental problems — nutrient pollution.

“As consumers feed their lawns this spring, they should know they can get great results from our products while also protecting and preserving our water resources,” said Jim Lyski, Scotts’ chief marketing officer, in a written statement.

Harmful algae blooms in coastal areas of the United States are estimated to have a yearly negative economic cost of at least $82 million, mostly because of their effects on public health and commercial fisheries, according to a 2006 report by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science."

Read more here

February 25th, 2013

From Farm Futures

"Study claims efficient fertilizer use could result in net savings worth more than $170 million.

A 20% improvement in fertilizer efficiency by 2020 would reduce nitrogen use by 20 million metric tons, according to a report commissioned by the United Nations Environmental Program.

The report was released at a forum held last week in Nairobi, Kenya, and was developed by nearly 50 experts from 14 countries.

The experts are calling the campaign to improve nitrogen efficiency "20:20 for 2020. Their analysis shows how this could provide a net savings worth more than $170 million by the end of 2020 through intergovernmental framework to address fertilizer use."

Read more here

February 6th, 2013

From Rapid City Journal

"PIERRE | State inspection fees on fertilizers should be raised, the state Senate decided Tuesday.

The additional revenue would be used to fund fertilizer research at the Agricultural Experiment Station at South Dakota State University.

There are national watershed concerns about nitrogen and phosphorus levels. State officials said they want to establish agricultural recommendations specific to South Dakota’s conditions.

Farm lobbyists estimate the additional fee revenue would be approximately $300,000 annually. The various fees now range from 5 cents to 25 cents per ton. The legislation would add 15 cents to each of those fees.

Senators voted 30-5 in favor of SB115. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.

The legislation also forms a state council on nutrient research and education.

Senate Democratic leader Jason Frerichs of Wilmot said the real need is to update fertilizer recommendations for farmers."

Read more here

February 6th, 2013

From Courierpress:

"Controversy surrounding a proposed fertilizer production plant in Posey County raises serious questions about whether a Pakistani company is cooperating enough with U.S. efforts to reduce the illicit use of fertilizer in homemade explosives used against our troops in Afghanistan.

The issue reaches far from the port of Mount Vernon where Midwest Fertilizer Corp. proposes to build the plant with assistance from the Indiana Finance Authority. That state assistance is now on hold, and for good reason.

It’s complicated, but suffice it to say that the U.S. is investigating whether fertilizer from the Asian country is finding its way into deadly improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in neighboring Afghanistan, and whether enough is being done to stop it."

Read more here

January 14th, 2013

From Pioneer Press:

"Guess who is fertilizing the food you eat?

You are.

Every time someone flushes a toilet in the Twin Cities, chances are the contents will end up on a farmer's field. In that way, the sewage system operated by the Metropolitan Council performs the ultimate in green alchemy -- transforming poop to payola.

"I don't use the word 'waste.' Nothing is a waste," said Harry Dessner, a southeastern Minnesota farmer who sells the human-based fertilizer. "We want to reuse and renew."

A new version of the fertilizer, called MinneGrow 5-4-0, just ended its first season of production at a plant in Shakopee. In Dakota County, a similar product -- a kind of processed human manure -- is growing more popular. "

Read more here

November 21st, 2012

Big data - the tech industry's latest darling is now being applied to agriculture as well.

From The Economist:

"The Climate Corporation, a start-up based in Silicon Valley, is collecting all kinds of information—including on weather patterns, climate trends and soil characteristics—and analyses the data down to an individual field. These insights are then used to offer farmers tailored insurance policies against the damage from extreme weather events.

Premiums for the company’s “Total Weather Insurance” (TWI) plans depend on crop and location. On average, they cost about $30 an acre annually, some 3% of the land’s revenue. In case of extreme weather at the wrong time of the season, The Climate Corporation pays out up to $300 per acre (the TWI is designed to complement federal crop insurance programmes in America, which provide only limited cover). In contrast to existing government schemes, farmers don’t have to prove actual losses. Payouts are triggered automatically without paperwork when the firm’s data show that writing a check is justified.

“We are not predicting the weather. We estimate the likelihood of unusual weather events and their potential impact on every single field in the US within the next two years”, explains David Friedberg, the firm’s founder and chief executive. To do this, it has to be good at both analysing huge amounts of data and calculating risk. To help with the number crunching, Mr Friedberg, an astrophysicist who once worked for Google, has hired a team of “quants”, or “quantitative analysts”, from university graduate programs in areas including statistics, applied mathematics and economics."

Read more here

November 9th, 2012

From Wired:

"Finding a roadside bomb was never easy, even back when insurgents made their improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from old artillery shells and other metal parts. But now that militant bomb-makers favor wood and fertilizer as the main components for their IEDs, detection has become a complete nightmare.

That’s why the U.S. Marine Corps wants to build an entirely new kind of bomb detector, one that doesn’t rely on spotting the metal in the IED."

Read more here.

Lastly, hope you can join us in the upcoming TFI-FIRT Fertilizer Outlook and Technology Conference. Lt. General Michael D. Barbero, director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), will be giving a talk on Nitrogen Fertilizer Security. The conference theme is "Adapting to Disruptive Forces in Crop Nutrition.  Get the full list of topics and speakers here.

October 18th, 2012

From Crop Life:

"Recruited from across Canada, a distinguished independent body selects the Manning award winners as the best of Canadian innovators. Wolf Trax founders Kerry Greenand Geoff Gyles are recipients in this year's awarding held  last October 17 in Ottawa at the 31st Annual National Innovation Awards Gala. They will be the first honorees to receive an award for agricultural innovation since 1997, and their award marks the fifth one ever for the farming industry."

Read more here.

Kerry Green presented in last year's TFI-FIRT Fertilizer Outlook and Technology Conference. You  can view his presentation here.


October 4th, 2012

IPNI launched a mobile device app called Crop Nutrient Deficiency Photo Library.

 “This is our first venture into mobile apps, and we think this offering will generate a lot of interest by crop advisers, consultants, farmers, students, and anyone wanting help in identifying nutrient deficiency symptoms in common crops,” said Dr. Terry Roberts, President, IPNI.

Based on IPNI’s popular Crop Nutrient Deficiency Image Collection (, the app contains key photos of classic nutrient deficiency documented from research plots and farm fields for 14 common crops. It also provides supporting text and illustrations of nutrient deficiencies.

 The app can be downloaded and viewed on iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch devices. You can find the iTunes link online here.

 IPNI would like to thank our contributors for providing the images used in our collections, who are part of a worldwide network of agricultural researchers, extension staff, field scouts, and farmers.

Read more from IPNI News Highlights.